CONCORD, N.C. — On a rather quiet Thursday in the racing world came the news that four-time Indy car champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti was retiring due to his injuries suffered in a vicious crash into the catchfence during the Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.
On the advice of doctors Franchitti stated that the risk for further injury was too great in the opinion of the medical staff to continue racing. Franchitti is basically being forced to retire due to his accident. That’s a crying shame. Franchitti, though on the back half of his career as a driver, still had some great years ahead of him. A massive talent behind the wheel of an Indy car, Franchitti has achieved everything one could hope for in American open-wheel racing, but to get his career cut short in the manner it did raises some tough questions in regards to safety and also the new age thought process of the more educated driver.
Franchitti’s Houston crash proved that safety has come a long way but a long way is left to go in a few areas — most notably the construction of catchfences
In Franchitti’s wreck, although his extensive injuries forced his retirement, the fact that he survived is a testament to the DW12 chassis that IndyCar worked so hard on. Despite a massive impact, the driver’s tub survived fairly well. We have no doubt seen progress on this front, but as new carbon technologies come along here is hoping we continue to see advancement in this area. Another idea that has been floating around has been the idea of a canopy on the Indy car. Open-wheel and open cockpit probably are against this idea, but I would be in favor of it. The only real concern with the canopy is fire in the cockpit and being trapped inside after a crash, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives. Flying debris has killed many an open-wheel driver and injured many more.
The NHRA has already permitted teams to use canopies on the open cockpit Top Fuel dragsters this year and although only a few teams have taken the opportunity, it already proved its worth when Antron Brown suffered a massive crash earlier this season.
Brown’s dragster exploded and flipped over sliding all the way down the track flinging debris everywhere and also catching on fire. Every test imaginable for the canopy passed with flying colors as the 2012 champion escaped uninjured.
Sitting on morals and the safety practices in place is the worst thing a racing series can do.
Twenty years ago without both the equipped knowledge from doctors and the stubbornness of the more rough and tumble drivers, many would chosen to continue racing and risk their lives. They knew no other way and if someone told a driver like A.J. Foyt he had to retire due to a previous injury being a future risk, he would more than likely have scoffed at their opinion, said a few bad words and gone looking for his helmet.
Fast forward to 2013 and Franchitti had to make that choice. He made the right one and the smart one. As bad as it is that he has to retire at age 40 he has a long life to look forward to. Franchitti is an intelligent individual who could do many things within racing should he choose to do so
Television broadcasting would seem like a viable and sensible option for someone who is good on camera and has just had very recent experience racing. All of the racing community is glad to have him around, and I think I speak for everyone when I congratulate him on a great career.
Thank you for the racing memories Dario!